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Cats that can swim? It actually does exist! The Turkish Van loves water, unlike its fellow species, and likes to take one or two trips into the cool water. The Turkish Van is often confused with the Turkish Angora. But if you look closely, you will quickly discover differences between the two races. As the name suggests, the Turkish Van cat comes from eastern Turkey. The name “Van” refers to the “Vansee”, in whose rough and secluded region the breed is said to have developed. Find out more about the extraordinary cats from Turkey here!

History of the Breed

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Even if the origins of the Turkish Van are in Turkey, their modern breeding history begins in Great Britain. In 1955, British cat lovers Laura Lushington and Sonia Halliday were amazed when they came into contact with cats with the paint known today as “van drawing”. After the cats were imported into Great Britain, serious breeding of the now known breed began. Crossbreeding with other breeds is not allowed in Van breeding. This pure breeding means that all Van cats go back to the animals imported from Turkey.

In Great Britain, the animals were first referred to as “Turkish cats”. In order to create a clear distinction from the “Turkish Angora”, the name was later changed to “Turkish Van”. Where the cats that brought Lushington and Halliday to the UK really came from is unclear. The same applies to the naming “Van”: This could be an abbreviation for the Turkish Van Lake or an indication that the two cat friends went camping in a car on their vacation in Turkey. Despite its name, the Turkish Van cat is hardly represented in Turkey anymore. In the early 1990s, only about 92 registered Van cats were still living in the breed’s country of origin. In 2006 there were 100 animals. In order to promote the breeding of the breed, the breeding was in the meantime funded with several thousand euros, and the export of the Turkish Van cats was punished with large sums of money.

The cats had also been known in the USA since the 1980s, and in 1994 they were recognized by the Cat Fancier’s Association. Since then, only just under 100 Van cats have been registered each year, making the Van one of the rarest cat breeds in the United States.


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At first glance, the Turkish Van is often confused with the Turkish Angora. Even if both cat breeds come from Turkey, they still differ considerably.

The Turkish Van cat is a medium-sized, strongly built cat with a broad chest, wedge-shaped head, and half-length fur. Her coat is silky in summer without an undercoat. In winter it shows a thick, plush fur. A bushy tail, pants on the hind legs, and a distinct ruff are typical of this breed. Interestingly, the fur on the belly is longer than the fur on the back. While many other cat breeds have up to three different types of hair, the coat of the Turkish Van cats is completely adapted to the extreme temperatures of their country of origin: Most cat breeds have up to 3 different types of hair at the same time. In contrast, the Turkish Van only has one type of hair per season. Due to the climatic extremes of her home country, she wears a thick, warm coat in winter and a thin, feathery coat in summer that feels like cashmere or rabbit fur. Particularly outstanding: The Turkish Van’s fur is water-repellent and allows you to take one or two trips into the cool water. The Turkish Van cat is therefore also known as the “swimming cat”. As is usual with many large, strong cats, the Turkish Van is also a late developer. It often takes four years for cats to reach their final size. The ruff typical of the breed is often not achieved until the age of six.


The Turkish Van has largely white fur. Color is only permitted in the head area and on the tail, the colored parts of the fur must not exceed 20 percent. Their unusual drawing with two separate colored surfaces in the area of ​​the ears and a colored tail coined the term “van drawing”.

In many traditional breeding associations, only red or cream-colored drawings are permitted in addition to the lime-white basic color. Some clubs also allow black and blue, often with or without a tabby pattern. Chocolate brown or points are not permitted. Some small points in the fur are often overlooked good-naturedly, but according to the breed standard, the appearance of the animal must not be reminiscent of a two-tone cat. However, there are also pure white or cream-colored Turkish Van without drawing. These are viewed as a separate breed in Turkey. The breed associations in Europe assign them to the color “cream”. Since 2005, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, one of the oldest European umbrella organizations of cat associations, has referred to Turkish Vans without a drawing as “Turkish Vankedisi”.

The Turkish Van’s eyes are light amber. However, unequal eyes are also permitted – some Turkish Van cats, therefore, have one blue and one amber-colored eye.

Turkish Van Cat Temperament

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The friendly cats from Turkey are considered intelligent and capable of learning. Turkish Van cats stay playful well into old age – this is especially evident when they have access to water. When outdoors, the good-natured fur noses tend to “fish” in watering cans or ponds. And they also like to play in the cool water indoors. The Turkish Van cat doesn’t stop at flower vases or toilets. Aquariums and toilets should therefore always be properly closed when there is a Turkish Van in the household!

The Turkish Van is also a good hunter. The lively cats love to run around – especially when they can play with their human. Turkish Van is extremely people-related and social and forms a solid bond with their human family. The cats are particularly affectionate and love to talk!

Bless You

Despite this reduced gene pool, the Turkish Van is considered robust and healthy. Like the Turkish Angora, Turkish Van has a tendency to feline ataxia, an autosomal hereditary disorder of coordination. In most cases, ataxia is neurological. The reason for the development of the disease is not yet known.

Pure white cats like Turkish Van the color white can be prone to deafness. These abnormalities, however, are not attributable to the breed itself, but to the genetic conditions in white animals: A study from the 1970s found that white cats with one or two blue eyes are more often affected by degeneration of the inner ear with subsequent deafness.

That being said, Turkish Van cats require the same care as other fur noses. A species-appropriate diet with a lot of high-quality protein, contact with the human family, possibly a second cat to society, and regular health care is a must and the best prevention against diseases. Turkish Van in particular, who can let off steam in the great outdoors, should be vaccinated regularly. However, immunizations against cat disease and cat flu are also essential for indoor cats. Your vet can advise you here and suggest a sensible vaccination schedule!

Care Tips

The fine, half-length fur of the Turkish Van has hardly any undercoat in summer and hardly requires any additional care. The thick winter coat, on the other hand, is adapted to the cold winter months of the country of origin of the Turkish Van. Here the cats need help with grooming every now and then: brushing once or several times per week reduces the swallowing of excess hair and is also gentle on your clothes and upholstered furniture. At the same time, you can offer your Turkish Van cat grass or malt paste – both products support the natural removal of swallowed hair.

As an active cat with a strong hunting instinct, the Turkish Van cat enjoys the great outdoors. If you live near a busy street or do not own a garden, a well-designed, secured balcony with a cat net can be a good substitute. But Turkish Van cats can be happy even if they are kept alone, as long as the owner provides enough variety. A floor-to-ceiling scratching post provides climbing and scratching opportunities. So-called “fumbling boards” invite you to explore and the game fishing rod is often used to reduce excess energy.

As already mentioned, Turkish Van cats love water. Make sure that your cat can interrupt the bathing fun at any time. It is not uncommon for cats to drown in garden ponds or rain barrels – a sloping board can make it easier for the cat to get out.

Turkish Van Diet

What is part of a cat’s “species-appropriate diet”? What should the food for your Turkish Van consist of so that your fur nose stays healthy and happy into old age? The market has many food products for cats, including many varieties for pedigree cats. Not only new cat owners are often at a loss in front of the shelf. Which food is the right one?

Whether you choose dry or wet food, or which brand you choose, cat food should contain one thing above all else: lots of healthy protein. As carnivores, cats mainly feed on mice, other small rodents, and birds in the wild. This form of nutrition, which is natural for cats, consists of around 85 percent meat and only around five percent plant-based components, which are found in the prey’s gastrointestinal tract. This can be summarized as 50 to 60 percent protein, 20 to 30 percent fat, and three to eight percent carbohydrates. Your Turkish Van also needs a diet that is high in protein, moderate in fat, and low in carbohydrates. So take a look at the food label before presenting your cat with a new type of food! Meat should always be at the top of the list of ingredients sorted by quantity. Fortunately, there are many types of food that suit the natural diet of cats and are also ideal for your Turkish Van.

Many special feeds for pedigree cats contain functional components. For long-haired cats, ingredients that encourage the natural removal of swallowed hair should be emphasized here. As an active cat, the Turkish Van needs cat food with high energy content. The castration or the aging process can also lead to weight gain and possibly being overweight in the Turkish Van. Therefore, take a close look at the daily feeding amount and, if necessary, consult your veterinarian on the subject of weight loss.

Cat Breed

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Van cat breeding is limited to descendants of animals imported from Turkey. No other breeds may be crossed. For a cat breed with a relatively small gene pool, professional breeding is essential to maintain the robust and healthy development of the breed.

If you have fallen in love with the lively character and the silky fur of the Turkish Van cat, the first step should lead you to a professional breeder. The Turkish Van is a rather rare cat and breeders of this breed are more difficult to find than, for example, Maine Coon or Persian cat breeders. It is often worth checking directly with the umbrella organizations. After all, professional, responsible breeders belong to a breed association. These often function as quality control – and membership in the club is often one of the most obvious features that distinguish a serious breeder from a so-called “multiplier”.

A professional breeder takes responsibility for his animals and their offspring. It’s not just about profit. Because anyone who pays attention to health care, healthy feed, good rearing conditions, and well-thought-out matings quickly realizes that breeding is an expensive hobby! In contrast to this, so-called “multipliers” often offer pedigree cats “without papers for a small price”. You are not a member of a club, often mate carelessly, and rarely give the kitten three to four months with mother and siblings before they move to the new home. Recovery phases for the mother are also often skipped to make room for the next litter. Inbreeding often occurs in such alleged breeds and the supposed bargain is often expensive for cat lovers.

We wish you a great time with your Turkish Van!